Scholars' Library: Geza Tatrallyay on his memoirs

Geza Tatrallyay
Event date
Event time
17:00 - 18:00
Rhodes Trust - Online Event
Venue details

via Zoom

Event type
Lectures and seminars
Event cost
Disabled access?
Booking required

Our March event, in conversation with another Rhodes Scholar, Geza Tatrallyay (Ontario and St Catherine's 1972) will focus mainly on his three memoirs, For the Children, The Expo Affair and The Fencers.

All three books in this trilogy of narrative memoirs are true stories of escape attempts Geza was involved in during the Cold War. They are gripping tales of bravery and the will to survive and achieve a better life in a free country and are particularly relevant today with the brutal Russian aggression in Ukraine, and the similar plight of many Ukrainian refugee families.

The first, For the Children is the story of his escape in 1956 with his family from Stalinist Hungary and immigration to Canada. Geza’s parents, members of the intelligentsia (both his grandparents were prominent doctors), were desperate to leave already after the Second World War as the Communists consolidated their power in their homeland. This is the gripping tale of their bravery and will to survive and achieve a better life for their children in a free country, told from the viewpoint of a seven-year-old. Caught twice, shot at, and imprisoned, the family finally managed to make it across the mine-studded border to Austria, and from there to Canada.

The second book, The Expo Affair, is an exciting narrative memoir of international intrigue and romance that takes place in the exotic setting of the world’s fair, Expo’70 in Osaka – a Japan just emerging as an economic powerhouse – where Geza worked as a host at the Ontario Pavilion. At the height of the Cold War, here he was approached by three Czechoslovak girls to help them defect to Canada. Canadian notables such as former Prime Minister Pierre Eliot Trudeau, External Affairs Minister Mitchell Sharp and General George Kitching play a role, as do individuals who have since become prominent as businessmen, artists and ambassadors.

The Fencers, the story of Geza’s fencing career – including his pursuit of the sport at Harvard (All-ivy and All-American) and Oxford (Half-blue) – culminating with the Olympics in 1976 where he represented Canada. At the Games, Paul Szabó, a Romanian-Hungarian fencer, whom he had befriended earlier on the international fencing circuit, approached him to help him defect to Canada. The story is set against the excitement of the first Olympics hosted by Canada and is a very human tale of bravery, success and ultimately tragedy. It is also quintessentially a Canadian refugee success story; Paul is now a successful psychologist in Toronto, and very grateful for the life Canada has given him.